Military Community Falls Victim to Identity Theft

by Levi Newman on December 23, 2010

Government documents and benefits fraud is the second most common form of reported identity theft, according to the Federal Trade Commission. The military community, in particular, has fallen victim to thousands of cases of fraud.

Why?

The nation’s finest, servicemen and women, use their social security numbers all over the world at different bases and outposts, making them vulnerable to Government document and benefits fraud.  However, they are also plagued with the same identity theft concerns as everyone. Military members must also worry about general credit card, utility, bank, loan and employment fraud.

How is the government protecting their hardest workers?

Former Army Intelligence Officer Professor, Lt. Col. Gregory Conti says in a recent report he wrote, “Service members and their families are burdened with a work environment that shows little regard for their personal information.” In summation, the government is not doing enough to hide service members’ personal information.

However, Department of Defense officials have been trying to limit the number of social security numbers needed on different documents.  For example, Military ID cards will no longer reveal SSI numbers. ID cards are being upgraded as they expire, using bar codes, magnetic stripes and other electronic authentication tools, a 2007 USA Today article reported. The article also brought out that such changes would take years and large amounts of money to implement.

How do thieves use the SSI number?

Identity thieves use stolen information for a plethora of different types of fraud.  For example, they can sign up for credit cards and other bills under the stolen person’s name and SSI number. They then proceed to not pay those bills, causing ruined credit for the victim.  They also order and write bad checks under the victim’s identity.

This leads to horrible consequences, not for the thief, but the victim.  The victim will no longer be able to easily apply for a home loan, credit cards and other opportunities that rely on credit history for its decision-making.  It’s a long and frustrating process as well, since cleaning up after a thief can take the victim years to do.

Steps to Take

Knowing the unprotected state of their personal information, military members should seek assistant from identity theft prevention firms such as Lifelock.  Some of these firms offer special discounts to active duty service members.

Service members can also regularly monitor their own credit and beware of suspicious emails or mail that contains scams. Shred all sensitive information and do not keep items with SSI info out in the open for everyone to see.

If a military member has already fallen prey to such an attack, filing a police report, checking your credit reports, notifying creditors and disputing any unauthorized transactions are some of the steps you must take immediately to restore your good name, according to the FTC.

Photo thanks to urban mermaid under creative common license on Flickr.

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